Updated: Feb 15
Not in halves
By: Miriam Zirdok
What bounds me to you in a way that it makes you mine and it makes me yours? Commitment. Acceptance as a whole. Knowledge and understanding of my spouse.
Whats something that my spouse has that nobody has in this world? That he/she is my spouse and I am his/hers, and that’s something (someone) that nobody else has.
What do we usually seek in a partner? Someone who will complement us, a person which we can really have a connection with, a true best friend that knows us and accepts us for who we are. But what does true acceptance means?
Rabbi Manis Friedman would say that marrying someone for love is as bad as marrying someone for money. Why would that be? Because the Talmud states that when we have an specific interest in a person because we love or like something they do or some things they have when that thing is gone our love for that person will fly by as well.
Now, if you are already in love with the person before getting married to them, mazal tov. Nothing wrong with it, just open your mind as well to find out if this is the person you "need" for life, you need to make sure your life objectives intersect, and realize that TRUE LOVE comes in the state of marriage, when we work for the relationship and we make it flourish together.
As Friedman would say in his book ‘The Joy of Intimacy’: “My love for you is what makes you most important- and if I stop loving you, you will become worthless”. This idea is arrogant- to think that our love for another person is what makes them important. Our love does not conference importance upon another, nor is it by itself all- important. Rather, LOVE is appropriate in a relationship WITHIN THOSE WHO ARE IMPORTANT.
In Marriage you are mature enough that you want your spouses love. Why? Because it’s him/her- you are in a committed and appropriate relationship with. If you are interested in getting love when you enter into a relationship, who are you marrying? The person or the love? From the Torah we learn that marriage comes first and the love comes afterwards: From the story of Rivkah and Itzjak we read he took his wife to his mothers tent and only after that he loved her. True intimacy only appears when we are committed to our spouse. And it can only occur when we surrender to each other wholeheartedly.
When we know that our spouse is ours and we are theirs to complete a mission in this world, to become one soul again. Only when we get a true view of the other within the boundaries of commitment is possible to really love them, and be loved, without fears or opt-outs, otherwise, wouldn’t it be selfish to call it love?
If you look through the Torah, G-d doesn’t say to his people “I love you”. He says “Be mine and I will be yours”. That tells us that a real relationship is about COMMITMENT and about your spouse not “something about” your spouse.
As well we cannot expect to get happiness from the other person. In a healthy relationship two healthy individuals who are happy with their lives enter a new stage- A committed life to one another, one that will eventually lead to create a family together and impact the world in a positive way. They will share their happiness, but one cannot give something he/she doesn’t have- if one of the individuals is miserable and unfulfilled single, he will be the same way married. We can’t put the weight of our happiness on the shoulders of our spouse.
In life, emotions may fluctuate, we are human beings, we experience happiness, sadness, love, excitement, joy and anger. Oh the emotions of life... They constantly change as life takes us in a rollercoaster of unexpected events. So if today I don’t feel the excitement I felt 20 years ago for my beautiful/ handsome spouse, my relationship might be over? First I want to share with you a very nice lesson I learned in college.
A fundamental difference between feelings and emotions is that feelings are experienced consciously, while emotions manifest either consciously or subconsciously. Emotions are Fleeting...It’s the joy we experience when we go to Disney world, the sensation of love we feel when we kiss someone we are attracted to. All fleeting emotions that can change in no time and we are not aware we have them. Experts say emotions last 90 seconds. They might last some time, but not long enough to become a feeling. Not long enough to be part of us.
So in short: Emotions are physical and instinctive, instantly prompting bodily reactions to threat, reward, and everything in between. The bodily reactions can be measured objectively by pupil dilation.
A feeling is an emotion that becomes part of our daily lives, it’s so inside of us that it manifest and translates into actions- because we are aware and conscious of them we act upon them. While emotions are associated with bodily reactions that are activated through neurotransmitters and hormones released by the brain, feelings are the conscious experience of emotional reactions. Feelings are sparked by emotions and shaped by personal experiences, beliefs, memories, and thoughts linked to that particular emotion.
Strictly speaking, a feeling is the side product of your brain perceiving an emotion and assigning a certain meaning to it.
When we are certain that our spouse is ours and we start the real work of life together (you have a house together, share the same bed, the same ideals and goals, then a feeling is translated by itself through actions- by commitment we are free to experience the real meaning of love and all the emotions involved in a safe and sound relationship.
As Eric Fromm wrote in his book The Art of Loving- Love is a decision you make everyday. Every moment of your life you are choosing to love and commit to this person.
True Love starts from an understanding that the other is a separate and different individual from us, and yet, we want to get to know him/her the best we can, that’s what Manis Friedman would call true intimacy, the knowledge of our spouse. We need to know all of us have boundaries and we are who we are. Nobody will change for a loved one, only if the person really wants to change he or she will.
So when we first start looking for a serious relationship what do we need to seek? That we can accept our partner in a totality, not in halves, not giving ultimatums, not expecting them to change for us. If there’s something that bothers us from the start we need to pay a lot of attention because that thing might never change. We are who we are. It is what it is. Period.
Accept it or opt out from the begginning, as my Yeshiva Director would say: Don´t start something you cant finish.
True love is accepting the other as a whole, independent and integral human being. His/hers vices, attitudes, personalities and what’s in their minds and hearts.
Now we might need to understand as well that whatever drawn us to this person can’t be the exact same reason why we love them! For example: I can’t love my spouse because he/she has a great attitude towards life, I might like it and enjoy it, but what happens if he/she has a depressive state for some time? Would I just stop loving everything from my spouse? Would our relationship be over just because of this?
Same example, different scenario: if I love someone because he/she is attractive? When they start getting old and saggy would I stop loving them? Would this be the moment that my love will come out as fake?
Love... a very confusing word for human beings. True Love really starts with commitment- part of loving the person as a whole is making them feel secure that they are our whole World and doesn’t matter what happens in this life we decided to marry this person because we are committed to them.
I don’t love my spouse because he/she provides me love, happiness, joy. I love my spouse for the simple and single fact that this is my spouse, my best friend, my partner in life. That doesn’t mean I will not experience and try to make my partner experience all the joy and happiness in the world, it means that love is a true commitment to the essence of the person. We are accepting a whole new person into our lifes without asking for proofs or an opt out— we are not putting our loved ones on a test, we simply accept them because they belong to us, and we belong to them, from tonight until the end of times.
Emotions, money, looks may and will change in life. That’s how life works! And we need to accept the fact that pleasure in bed is the same. If I marry my boyfriend/girlfriend because I like the sex life we have, when the entertainment will cease, my true interest and love for him/her will cease as well... Because we were not committed from the start to the person as a whole, but we were committed to the selfish pleasure that person brought to my life.
As Rabbi Friedman said once in a class if a man and a woman are not planning on getting married, they are just enjoying each other’s company or sexuality they are sharing a cold drink called loneliness, but it’s better than drinking alone right? As described in the song Piano Man by Billy Joel. Because they will never achieve true intimacy, to be in two different bodies but to become one.
As we get older we start to realize that fullfiling another person could only be done in the state of marriage, when true intimacy takes place, a giving atmosphere of ourselves as a whole, because the other person belongs to us and we belong to them. As we reach oneness in bed, we become one soul as well, one day at a time.